There is a big difference between playing through amplification and sitting in a living room with acoustic guitars. In recent shows, Alex and I have been playing our acoustic guitars through our amps. This decision mainly stems from the kind of shows we’ve been able to book, opening slots for louder acts. In an effort to pull our weight in medium sized rooms (often times fairly empty) the amplifiers make it easier to pack a punch.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t start writing folk songs so i could fill rock clubs with amplified acoustic guitars. Frankly, I have no interest in playing live with a traditional backing band, and the recent shows have felt like I’ve had each foot in separate worlds.
Last night, Alex and I played at a living room in Southeast Portland supporting Ryan Sollee from The Builders and the Butchers. No amps, no microphones. This show epitomized what I love about writing songs. Writing a song is an intimate act, and performing a song is the most direct way to share that intimacy. Without any amplification to hide behind I felt like I was able to share the songs the way I intended to share them. Raw seems like a cheap word to use, but it felt more honest than any show we’ve done in recent memory. No bullshit, no contrived banter, no amps, just songs.
Ryan’s set was a nice reminder of why songwriting is really the foundation of any band. The Builders and the Butchers are known for their bombastic ballads, raucous live show, and lyrics that could be lifted from a scene in a Cormac McCarthy novel. Strip away everything except the chords and the words, and the songs suddenly resonated in a new way. Not better or worse, just simpler. The song as a craft pushed to the forefront and all of a sudden my connection to the songs became more immediate.
It’s that immediacy that I’m passionate about. Living room venues are such an amazing place to share songs; the direct connection that they facilitate isn’t found anywhere else. I want to thank Stirling Myles at the Christmas Horse for organizing a night that reminded me why this songwriting thing is important to me in the first place.